The world wakes up every day to find out the newer jaw-dropping wonders that technology renders us. This time, a company is planning to start a space trip from Alaska in an advanced balloon; and they are almost done with the design.
Florida-based startup firm Space Perspective plans to use the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak to serve as one of the launch sites for the vehicle, called the Spaceship Neptune, The Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday. The balloon rides will be manned by a flight crew taking eight passengers in a pressurized capsule suspended beneath a hydrogen balloon the size of a football stadium. The crew capsule is named ‘Spaceship Neptune’.
For a six hour journey, it would cost $125,000 per head for a passenger. This cost is an estimate only, as per the company’s Public Relations Officer. Mark Lester, CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp., said the high-altitude rides will be available from Kodiak in a few years and will support Alaska tourism. “You will have people from around the world who want to come to Alaska and see the Northern Lights from the edge of space,” Lester said.
Alaska Aerospace and Space Perspective will collaborate on this mega project. Their combined effort would test and refine spaceport operations and secure spaceflight licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration. Space Perspective plans to complete an unmanned test flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida next year. Passengers will begin with a two-hour ascent to about 19 miles (31 kilometers) above Earth. They will then be able to post on social media about the experience or send data. “Neptune then makes a two-hour descent under the balloon and splashes down, where a ship retrieves the passengers,” along with the capsule and balloon, Alaska Aerospace said.
However, the atmospheric pressure at 19 miles is about 1 per cent of that at the earth’s surface. This is approximately a vacuum. Therefore, the pressure makes an important research area for the scientists involved in the mission. Their experiments on materials needed to manufacture the capsule is, as a result, very much valuable.
Capsule recovery would occur in the waters around Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Island chain, depending upon the seasonal wind patterns. The balloon design is derived from technology NASA has used for decades to fly large research telescopes, Space Perspective said.
Space perspective was a start-up company founded in 2019 by Jane Poynter and his spouse Taber McCullum. Jane and Taber were previously the co-founders of the high altitude balloon company World View Enterprises. Bloomberg Business week had declared the couple ‘masters of the stratosphere’.